Many people following the United States elections (millions, maybe billions, of us, unfortunately) have wondered if Trump was created by the Republican Party or if he simply exposed troubled cultural currents that already existed. I believe the answer has to be a complicated mixture of these elements and more.
This one man, backed by so many people who seem to crave open expression of insecurity and/or hatred, has tapped into and fomented our nation’s fearful response—to a perceived loss of Christian hegemony, to the coexistence in the United States of many different groups of people, thus challenging white, Anglo dominance, to the increasingly public existence of LGBTQIA individuals, and to the challenge of women of color and white women of patriarchal standards in our nation. As a member of one of these marginalized groups, I feel an incredible cascade of emotions as I continue to be bombarded with Trump-rhetoric. These range from fury, outrage, and violation to fear, frustration, and sadness. I can only imagine how this range of emotions is broader, more complicated, and more acute for those individuals who belong to more than one of these marginalized groups.
Robin Alperstein in her most recent post on Voluble has thoroughly documented Donald Trump’s harassing, discriminating words that have attempted to reduce African-Americans, the differently abled, the Jewish population, Latinas/os/xs, Mexicans, Muslims, women, and those who have experienced Trump’s fraudulent business schemes to less than human. If you boil things down, there really aren’t too many groups who have escaped Trump’s withering words, dehumanizing demonstrations, and threats of violent plans for the future. This amounts to what I believe we are seeing as a national trauma.
Trauma works in all tenses—past, present, and future. Systemic racism, misogyny, heteronormativity, and Christian privilege stem from our past and define our present. The present harm inflicted by the potential Assaulter-in-Chief does tremendous damage right now, heaping real injury on top of centuries of unsolved problems. For many people here in the United States, the violent rhetoric and plans to marginalize so many of us even more than we already are tap into past trauma (harassment, discrimination, and assault disproportionately meted out to the groups listed above) and to fear for our future (who will be deported?; who will lose rights if they’re “allowed” to stay?; who will be bullied and beaten up?; who will be killed on the streets of our nation?; who will be sexually assaulted?; who will be raped?; who will be trafficked?).
Even (if and) when Secretary of State Clinton is declared our President on November 8th, we as a nation will have not just a moment, but likely decades of reckoning with our deep, systemic national problems. When I think about the tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands?) of hours we have spent just trying to stop the torrent of hatefulness from one way too powerful individual—hours that could have been spent in much more constructive ways (e.g. contributing to Black Lives Matter, aiding Syrian refugees, organizing relief efforts for Haiti and Florida after Hurricane Matthew, reducing sex trafficking)–, I am sick. We have many problems to solve and many wounds to heal. It’s time to give no air time, no newspaper ink, no attention to the megalomaniac and to give all of our work, know-how, dedication, and love to solving problems and healing the wounds of the traumatized.